If you are a frequent traveler on the Nairobi - Nakuru road, you will most likely have seen the ‘Jacaranda Lake Elementaita Lodge’ sign just after or before (depending on the direction you are driving) the famous ‘Kikopey’ meat joint. The lodge is just 500 meters in, off the main road and situated nearly 120 kilometers from Nairobi. The road to the lodge is a murram type of road but any type of vehicle – 4 wheel or salon- can get to the lodge. The rates to stay at the lodge go for Kshs. 5,999 or thereabouts per person sharing per night on full board meals, which means that Jacaranda Elementaita is an absolute steal for the frugal traveler!
The Jacaranda Elementaita lodge does not exactly shout out its presence, but is a lodge brimming with colonial history. When we arrive at the lodge, I am struck by the uncanny resemblance that the reception area has to the Nairobi’s Muthaiga Country Club. The lodge has retained the features and the atmosphere of an old colonial home; red brick buildings with shaded terraces, paneled walls, a sitting room with a library and a log fire. The lodge manager, Anthony, informed me that the lodge was built in 1916 by an English settler, Lord Galbraith Cole. Now under the ownership of Jacaranda Hotels, you can feel the atmosphere of old-world charm and British heritage inherent in the lodge’s largely brick architecture. There remains a distinctly polite, understated approach at work at the Jacaranda Elementaita lodge.
We were at the Lodge for a weekend retreat. 25 clients, all women, would be taking a one-night break here to celebrate the huge milestone of having made it to the age of 40. We chose Jacaranda Elementaita not just because the lodge was very affordable, but because the lodge was also very flexible and accommodating when it came to meeting some special requests by the clients. For example, the lodge allowed our clients to set-up a Karaoke night with dancing, and an outside log fire, much to the clients’ delight! For just one night therefore, we had set-up just the right sort of house-party backdrop for the ladies, far away from Nairobi but close enough for comfort with lots and lots of fun.
The tradition in many Kenyan lodges is that all guests receive a welcome on arrival that will include a cold drink – juice in a small glass - and a cold towel to cool you down after a long journey. Jacaranda Elementaita was no different and after driving for nearly 2.5hrs from Nairobi on a rather hot
Friday afternoon (there was an unusually heavy traffic as well), the glass of juice was a most refreshing welcome.
Lunch at Jacaranda Elementaita is served at 12.30pm. We had missed the lunch cut-off time by a few hours but the lodge was kind enough to prepare some lunch for us à la carte. Perhaps as a nod to its British heritage, all the meals at Jacaranda Elementaita consist of two courses and desert. The first course, a soup or cream, is served with different types of pastries while the salads are served with the meats and the lentils, as the second course. Desert is an assortment of cakes, pies, Tarts, custards, local fruits, coffee and tea. The dining area is set on the terrace while the meals are served inside the dining room. Guests therefore have the option to have their meals inside the dining room or outside on the terrace. We enjoyed the meals thoroughly!
We checked into our rooms after lunch. The rooms at the Jacaranda Elementaita are neither large nor small. And, that British charm is extended to the 33 rooms of the lodge, which means that the rooms resemble a bedroom rather than a hotel room. The rooms are independent standing cottages, with an option of taking a twin room (a room with two single beds), a double room (a room with one double bed) or interconnecting rooms which are suitable for families with children. With natural stone floors and simply furnished, each room has an en-suite bathroom with a hot shower and bath that is well managed and clean but, could do with an upgrade. The bedroom space has been used well and even the wardrobe, table and chair in the room is quite charming. The rooms could do with full length mirrors though and I hope that the management can put these into the rooms. There is a sitting area outside of each cottage where the magnificent views of the sensational flowered gardens are just perfect for day dreaming, and perfect for reading. And, because Wi-Fi is a necessity to all travelers, here is a tip for the traveler who might be staying at Jacaranda - requesting to be placed in any of the first 12 cottages will be worth your while. These rooms have excellent Wi-Fi, unlike the rest of the rooms at the lodge where the Wi-Fi is intermittent.
For all its simplicity and Charm, Jacaranda Elementaita is a lodge looking beyond its own front door and celebrating the surrounding environment - which is one of the most exciting in the Kenya! Visitors to the lodge must take the opportunity to experience the nature walk to the Lake and hot springs. My clients, after a jubilant night of singing their way to hoarse voices, did not get the opportunity to do the nature walk, some did get the opportunity to use the lodge’s warm swimming pool. And from the pool area, the view of Lake Elementaita is simply just breathtaking! A hot spring, which the locals believe to have medicinal value, feeds the lake from the underground. Lake Elementaita is bird watcher’s paradise and home to Millions of lesser Flamingoes. Lake Elementaita has been recognized as a Ramsar site i.e. a wetland of international importance.
So why Stay here? Because this is not the Elementaita Lodge as you knew it before. Now under new ownership, it's aimed at enticing families as well as corporates that may be looking to go for company retreats and conferences. The lodge is also the perfect out of town setting for a destination wedding! Here is an affordable and flexible place to stay that touches on what most travelers are looking for: affordable, fantastic food, great customer care, cosy rooms, an encyclopedia of activities and, of course, amazing scenery!
The Author is the Founder and CEO of Saffara Ltd
This article was published in the East African Newspaper on Monday the 11th of December, 2017. Read it here as "Country charm at Jacaranda Lodge"